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Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools
|Schools Redesigned by Parent, Teacher,
Principal Collaboration, by Delabian L. Rice Thurston
Creative School Spending Almost Sinks a Principal A Big Deal
Next Years School Budget: Your Phone Calls and Letter Count
Special Needs Students and the Stanford 9 Test
Parent Training A Trainers Experience, by Iris Toyer
New Technical/Vocational Charter School
Long Range Facilities Plan In the Works
THE PARENTS UNITED SPRING MEETING
ASSESSING 5 YEARS OF LSRTs: HOW ARE THEY DOING, WHAT WILL MAKE THEM BETTER
MAY 19, 1999
Calling parents, teachers and principals How can we make the Weighted Student Formula Planning Process better? Start your thoughts by filling out the survey. Fill it out and send it back to us as soon as you can. Bring samples of materials that helped you assess your school's needs and share them with us. Parents United needs your help to advocate for the training and support parents need to participate with confidence. Appraise your LSRT experience and share your perspectives with other parents, teachers and principals.
SCHOOLS REDESIGNED BY PARENT, TEACHER, PRINCIPAL COLLABORATION
by Delabian L. Rice Thurston, Executive Director
After five years of school LSRTs designing toothless school plans, the Superintendent gave Local School Restructuring Teams the real test -staff and supply your school for a year and develop a program tailored to your students' needs so that at least 10% of your students' scores rise to the next level on the Stanford 9 test.
This year, LSRT teams were baptized by fire! We commend the parents and staff who
attended the community meetings to give and receive feedback on the plan. If all goes
well, this will be the first and only time the planning process is compressed into two
months with training in the plan process proceeding at the same time the plan is being
developed. Please call our office to let us know how you feel about your plan, its ability
to raise student achievement if implemented. If your plan needed revisions, we would like
CREATIVE SCHOOL SPENDING ALMOST SINKS A PRINCIPAL A BIG DEAL
The Inspector General's report on the investigation of the practices of Deal JHS Principal Reginald Moss brought a crisis to one of our city's finest schools and most accomplished principals. Fortunately parents acted to protect the quality of their school. The M.M. Washington community was jolted last year by allegations of improper spending as well, but without a public outcry and chance for parents to evaluate whether the funds were used for students and school programs, that principal was fired. We hope the crisis has helped the school community look more closely at our concept of what is school-based management and the rules under which flexibility is possible.
Rules can be ambiguous. The food service rules governing pizza sales are an example. USDA allows schools to seek waivers and contract with vendors to serve other than cafeteria food, such as pizza. Pizza (and other food) can be sold in schools that offer subsidized lunches if a subsidized pizza price is also available. Principals were not told they could subsidize their alternative food source to make it comply with the rules.
The principal of Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland took us on a tour of his school and pointed proudly to his extra cafeteria food sales, which provide an additional $40,000 a year in money for needed equipment and extra curricular activities. Such sums greatly improve "creativity."
Some rules have changed. For years, some PTAs and HSAs have used their own funds to hire staff for the school, such as teacher aides. DCPS is now requiring a security check for all people who will work in any school. School organizations will continue to be able to hire additional staff, but with new regulations governing that hiring, including going through the DCPS Human Resources Office, whose past incompetence caused parents to do their own hiring in the first place. While supporting additional staff may not seem fair to schools with low PTA/HSA budgets, many of those low income schools receive anywhere from $23,000 $23,000 - in Title 1 funds to upgrade their programs and add staff. Schools can use those federal funds to lower class size and individualize instruction. Using PTA/HSA funds does give the flexibility of hiring without regard to credentials and of firing more easily for non-performance.
Some rules are unchanged. School organizations which hire employees or provide funding for programs at the school must remember to keep scrupulous records and file all tax forms for those employees.
DCPS is now allocating resources to schools by giving schools the money instead of prescribing staff configurations. LSRTs must allocate those funds to meet student needs and raise achievement. If principals who have used those resources flexibly are censured, it will be even more difficult to achieve successful school based management. Mr. Moss creatively met his schools' and his students' needs and was censured. Betty Bryant's (of M.M. Washington) offending expenditures seemed similarly school related (as revealed in a cursory skimming of the Inspector General report.) Dealing with financial shortfalls, we hope principals and LSRTs can follow directives to be "creative" without being censured.
NEXT YEAR'S SCHOOL BUDGET: YOUR PHONE CALLS AND LETTERS COUNT
Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and the D.C. Public School system have requested local funding for next school year (FY 2000) of $627.5 million. This is the amount calculated under the DC Council's Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. Our children are entitled to this amount by law. Almost all the new funding will go to local schools.
The Mayor's proposed budget, released March 15, would provide funding of only $588.3 million. The Council's Committee on Education added some they are still entitled to $33 million more. Council members say there is no money although most of them plan to cut taxes for businesses and higher income residents.
The Superintendent's new Weighted Student Formula provides increased funding at most schools for school staff and school supplies and materials. Your principal and Local School Restructuring Teams have written plans to spend these funds. You can tell the Mayor, Control Board and Council:
Schedule: the Mayor, Control Board and Council will meet starting April 30 to negotiate a "consensus budget." The Council will make its final decision by May 11.
POINTS OF CONTACT
Mayor of the District of Columbia, Anthony Williams, 1 Judiciary Square, NW Washington, DC 20001, 727-2980
Control Board, Alice Rivlin, Chair, Constance Newman (oversees Education), 1 Thomas Circle, NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005, 504-3400
Council of the District of Columbia, 1 Judiciary Square, NW, Washington, DC 20001, 724-8000
Council Chair: Linda Cropp 724-8032
Tellin' Stories: Connecting Schools, Families and Community parent advocacy workshops. Parents from a number of schools citywide are meeting monthly to develop advocacy skills and address local school issues. For more information or to attend the next monthly meeting in May, call Jill or Barbara at 202 238- 2379.
SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS AND THE STANFORD 9 TEST
Do you have a child in Special Education or one who has limited English proficiency? During this last Stanford 9 testing period, was your child tested? Did you want your child tested or not? Did the testing process provide the accommodations your child needs? Parents United has had several calls from parents concerned that their children were taking the test in their regular classes rather than in their special education setting.
Special education students and Limited English Proficient students are entitled to take the test if parents want them to. DCPS offers four levels of of accommodation to student needs. The accommodations used should be those the child is accustomed to using in the classroom.
Many parents of special needs students have mixed feelings about testing. They want the system to teach their child as though the child has intellectual value and they believe that if the child is tested and the test counts, the school has an incentive to work harder to teach him or her. If the school is allowed to exclude the child from testing, some parents fear that the system will "throw their child away." Similar issues arise with limited English students. Since parents want their children to become fluent in English, parents want the system pressured to teach English well.
The consequences of failing the test, however, are real. On one hand, parents do not want to see their children fail. When the Stanford 9 is used to determine promotion to the next grade, parents become concerned that their children will fail the test. On another hand, principals do not want low test scores because part of their evaluation as a principal depends on students' improving their test scores.
For more information on the specific accommodations that should be available to your child, contact the appropriate office: for Special Education students, contact the Division of Special Education at 202-442-4800; for language minority students contact the Office of Bilingual Education 202-576-8850. If you believe the school did not properly test your child with the special accommodations needed, contact Superintendent Ackerman 442-4226 because she is ultimately responsible.
New Address - To Meet Special Education needs.
Advocates For Justice and Education
PARENT TRAINING A TRAINER'S EXPERIENCE
by Iris Toyer, Director, Public Education Legal Services Project, The Washington Lawyers Committee
Several months ago the DCPS Parent Affairs Office put out a call for parent volunteers interested in becoming trainers. Not quite knowing what the subject matter would be or even the time commitment, I said "I'm game." I do that sometimes leaping before I look. However, this time I landed in a good place.
About forty parents showed up at the Parent Affairs Office to spend several Saturdays and weekday evenings together learning "What Good Work Looks Like," "How to Help Your Child with Reading," and "How to Help Your Child with Math." More importantly, from my perspective this was a gathering of committed parents fathers and mothers from all across the city whose interests were not just personal but more global. They wanted to provide other parents with the tools to understand "the new standards-based approach to learning" as well as helpful hints on ways to work with their children. Armed with this new knowledge, we were ready! I was partnered with two wonderful women whom I had never met, but we made a very good team.
Every school principal was notified of the training schedule and given the responsibility to get the parents to the training sessions. Principals could select two sessions to be given at their schools. Like every other great idea, something got lost in the translation. As trainers, our experiences have an eerily similar sound. We show up to play to an empty audience or we show up and sometimes nobody knows why we are there; or we visit schools with hundreds of students and two, three or maybe five parents come. On the bright side, there are those schools that have great turnouts and good participation. Make no mistake, every parent who comes leaves in a better position to help his or her child and trainers feel they too have gained.
I am concerned that more parents have not taken advantage of this resource. Maybe the principals did not do a good enough job of publicizing the workshops. Maybe the workshops were publicized and parents did not see the need. Maybe everybody -- parents and principals -- is stretched just a little too thin. If that is the case, can we afford to accept that as an excuse? I don't think so. We need to know what this standards stuff is about and how it will shape our children's education experience an enjoyable and rewarding one. We need to know the right questions to ask our teachers to make sure that our children are being equipped to succeed!
The Parent Affairs Office, to its credit, has reconvened the trainers to assess the success of the initiative and to plan for next year. The participant evaluations and comments from the trainers will be used to improve the plan. I am hopeful that next school year the workshops will be filled with parents. If education is important for our children, then it follows that it is important for parents to be part of their children's education. If you are interested in becoming a Parent Trainer, call the Parents Affairs Office, at 202 442-5150.
NEW TECHNICAL/VOCATIONAL CHARTER SCHOOL
The Booker T. Washington Public Charter School for Technical Arts at 641 S Street, NW is accepting students for a full 23.5 credit hour program for grades 9 through 12. The academic program is designed for students wanting apprenticeship training and post secondary academic programs for college or trade schools.
In addition to the traditional students, the program welcomes adults, high school drop-outs and welfare-to-work participants. Vocational subjects include: brick masonry, plumbing, electrical wiring, steam fitting, roofing, welding, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, carpentry, drywall, painting, blue print reading, autoCAD, graphic design, business skills, computer skills. The Adult Education program will offer night classes, GED, English as a Second Language, Computer training, Vocational Skills in technical trades. Contact Edward Pinkard at 202- 328-6236 for further information.
LONG RANGE FACILITIES PLAN IN THE: WORKS
The D.C. Public School System has told the Mayor and the Council that it will submit a Long Range Education Facilities Master Plan by October 1999. Over the next five months, a contractor, hired by the Army Corps of Engineers will prepare this plan. In order to get community input, the Board of Education is holding meetings in various neighborhoods. The plan should reflect and incorporate the vision, ambitions and requirements of the instructional program as well as the needs of the community. All members of the community -- parents, teachers, administrators and community residents are invited to share their ideas and concerns so that the plan will support quality education and the revitalization of our neighborhoods.
The Meetings will be held at 6:30 pm as follows:
Parents United is supported by contributions from individuals, public school PTAs and HSAs, as well as grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The Freddie Mac Foundation, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation as well as the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, Fannie Mae Foundation and the Taste of Salt Foundation. Contributions are tax-exempt and are always welcome. They can be sent directly to Parents United, 1I Dupont Circle, NW Washington, DC 20036.
The Editor of UPDATE is Delabian L. Rice-Thurston, Executive Director. Parents United Board members are: Brenda Artis, Ward 6; Janice Autrey, Ward 5-Co-Chair; Sheila Carr, Ward 7-Co-Chair; Francesca Dixon, Ward 2; Mary Filardo, Ward 1; Sergio Luna, Ward 1; John Pfeiffer, Ward 6; Wayne Proctor, Ward 2; Karalene Robbins, Ward 5; Eluvia Sanchez, Ward 1; Lairold Street, Ward 4; Ron Stroman, Ward 4; Angela Thompson-Murphy, Ward 7, Meg Weekes, Ward 3 and Elder Wellborn, Ward 3-Treasurer.
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